By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
In a special press conference held today from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Dutch brewery Heineken finally unveiled its new and much speculated sponsorship deal with Formula One.
The deal runs through 2020 but has an option to extend through 2023 and is reportedly worth up to $250 million. A major tenet of the deal will see Heineken serve as the title sponsor for three races per season from 2017 on, they will also be the title sponsor for this September’s Italian Grand Prix as well.
Heineken will have a major presence at races, with fan zones and promotions for it’s responsible drinking initiative aptly titled “If You Drive, Never Drink.” Heineken branding will be track side at every Grand Prix for the rest of the season and feature highly at races in future seasons with the notable exception of Abu Dhabi where alcohol is banned. Branding and promotions will also extend to race host cities, shopping centers, fan events and more. Expect a massive social media push as Heineken will help F1 catch up after initially taking years to warm up to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Though Heineken emphasized they are not yet sponsoring any teams, negotiations are under way with Red Bull, as the Dutch brewery is quite keen to sponsor Dutch wunderkind Max Verstappen.
Former drivers Sir Jackie Stewart, who helped orchestrate the deal, and David Coulthard will serve as Heineken brand ambassadors and have an increased presence at races in their new roles. Ever safety minded, Stewart is keen not only to see the boost the deal can give to Formula One, but also the potential to combat drunk driving and had high praise for the joint venture.
“I think Heineken’s involvement is going to do F1 an immense amount of good, adding new dimensions we’ve not seen before. It’s the most significant thing that’s happened to motorsport for many years, they’re going to serve an audience not in the paddock, but out there. Consumers are going to learn to drive and not drink, and Heineken are going to save lives.”
Global branding manager of Heineken, Gianluca di Tondo see’s huge potential for the deal and thinks that F1’s previous lack of promotion on social media gives the deal a higher ceiling than Heineken’s previous deals with giant enterprises like UEFA and the James Bond Franchise, “As a marketeer, I personally believe it (F1) is largely unexploited. So I believe we can do with F1 things that no one has done before. And this is first of all based on the experience we have accumulated, based on the way of working we have.”
With the sport reeling from Mercedes’ dominance, pay TV deals, quiet engines and more driving fans away, the Heineken deal has come along at just the right time and combined with the 2017 rule changes may be just what F1 needs.